Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Why Your Little Ones May be Driving You Mad

Jul 29, 2015 09:55PM

Food Sensitivities and Children’s Behavior

by Dr. Isabel Sharkar

Believe it or not, what we feed our little ones may be the root cause of many disorders. Diet affects both our neurotransmitters and brain. Food is the building block that becomes our foundation. Food sensitivities may be the culprit to why your little ones are experiencing behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), increased hyperactivity, impulsivity, lack of concentration or cooperation, outbursts, stomachaches, rashes and headaches. Eliminating certain foods from the diet may significantly help some children.

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.4 million American children have been labeled with the medical diagnosis. Of which, 4.3 million children receive powerful mind-altering stimulant medications.

Some things parents can try at home before placing your child on a heavy prescription drug includes testing for and eliminating food sensitivities. The following have been linked to behavioral problems and eliminating these from the diet is a great place to start: gluten, processed sugar, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, dairy, eggs, soy, preservatives, pesticides, MSG, genetically modified food, and artificial food dyes such as FD&C blue (1, 2), yellow (5, 6), green (3), red (3, 40), citrus red 2 and orange B.

If a child is consuming something he or she is sensitive to resulting in inflammation in the brain, this can lead to meltdowns, irritability, anxiety, depression and brain fog. Unaddressed food sensitivities can also lead to leaky gut, which will further impact behavior and may lead to malabsorption of vital nutrients needed for growth and development. A noticeable negative behavioral reaction from food can last anywhere from 24 hours to three days.

In order for children to stay focused and energized, they should start their days with balanced blood sugar. Protein helps to do this and stabilizes healthy growth. However, cereals filled with processed sugars, artificial colors and preservatives promote energy peaks and crashes that can lead to temper tantrums and loss of focus. Add an omega-3 fatty acid DHA supplement, check vitamin D levels, add a wide spectrum probiotic and increase dietary fat such as olive oil, coconut oil, flax oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.

Buy organic and become familiar with the “Dirty Dozen”—the foods noted for a higher level of pesticides (see box below). Read food labels. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, don’t buy the food product and give it to your child to consume.

By taking time to prepare healthy food you are showing your children the importance of healthy eating and living.

Dr. Isabel Sharkar, ND, is a licensed naturopathic physician and co-owner of Indigo Integrative Health Clinic, in Georgetown. For more information, call 202-298-9131 or visit

Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tests and then identifies the produce with the highest pesticide loads, and identifies them as the “Dirty Dozen”. They identify the following foods as those you should each organic as often as possible:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Imported snap peas
  • Potatoes
For more information on the Dirty Dozen (and the Clean Fifteen), visit




Global Brief
Health Brief